Now that I have arrived in Monferrato, I hope I have set the scene for a journey into this rich historic region.
I can still see it now: the golden light on the fertile plains of Piemonte flashing by our car windows as we drove down from the Frejus tunnel, past Turin on the E70, towards the lush rolling hills of Monferrato, and on to our holiday destination in Liguria. It was my first time to drive through this spectacular region of Italy, and to experience the surprise and delight at the sights and sounds around me – to think that I had no prior idea as to the extraordinary beauty of the Piemonte region! This was before my interest in wine had really taken hold, but I knew in my heart that I would be back, and that Piemonte would play a significant role in my future.
Fast forward to my first wine trips to the area – I must confess that in the beginning my learning and knowledge was heavily biased towards the Langhe, and the other two Bs. I know, I know, how could I? Perhaps in the UK Barolo and Barbaresco have a higher profile than Barbera? It’s as if the first two Bs are the Bride and Groom, and Barbera is the Bridesmaid, working hard in the background to make life easier for everyone else, without getting enough attention for her beautiful self. Early WSET education about the region possibly diverted my attention westwards, and I must admit that my earlier visits to Piemonte were heavily weighted to the Cuneo region, and always included at least a quick visit to the elegant city of Turin.
Little did I know, however, what awaited me in Monferrato. Over time I met a number of tour operators and hospitality providers at business to business workshops. They were all enthusiastic and encouraged me to shuffle eastwards, assuring me of a warm welcome and great wine.
I thought I had better see what all the fuss was about, and how glad am I that I did!
Hilltop villages, castles and towers, colourful vineyards sweeping down towards the sun, hazelnut groves, and orchards of nectarines all provide the backdrop of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in which we can explore its traditional food and wine. With archaeological evidence of wine making in the area dating from the fifth century BC, it’s no wonder that UNESCO acknowledges the interaction of man and nature in the creation of these breathtaking landscapes. These landscapes have evolved over millennia and will continue to do so, as the people of the region continue to work together with the abundance bestowed on them.
Over the coming months we will discover together the wines of this area, such as Barbera d’Asti, Dolcetto, Moscato d’Asti, Ruché, Grignolino and Malvasia (not forgetting the grape spirit Grappa, of course). We will encounter the local cuisine – agnolotti, tajarin, bagna cauda, fritto misto, amaretti biscuits, hazelnut spread and, of course, the revered yet humble truffle. And we will meet the local people including the growers, the winemakers, the local mayors, hoteliers, chefs and sommeliers. We might even go truffle hunting!
Now that I have arrived in Monferrato, I hope I have set the scene for a journey into this rich historic region. Wherever I have travelled for wine, whether Piemonte, Italy, or elsewhere, there is one place where a great experience can always be guaranteed – Monferrato!